Rostra and Temple of Saturn (Rome)

Rostra and Temple of Saturn (Rome)


Description of Rostra and Temple of Saturn

Ростра и Храм Сатурна (Рим)

Before Facebook and Twitter were invented, the Romans also had a place to express their useless opinions. And this served them their Forum. Or, more precisely, a place called Rostra. Rostra was built by order of Julius Caesar in the middle of the 1st century. It was here, according to Shakespeare, that Mark Antony delivered his famous speech after the murder of Caesar: "Romans, fellow citizens and friends! Listen to how I will speak for myself."

Later, Cicero's head and arms were exposed here. The wife of Mark Antony Fulvia pierced his tongue with a hairpin. Ironically, Mark Antony himself was defeated in the naval battle of Antinius in 31 BC. The noses of warships or the rostra were added to the existing podium. Hence the name Rostra or Rostral colon.



Consecrated under the consulate of Aulus Sempronio Atratino and Marco Minucio Augurino (497 BC), the Temple of Saturn is the oldest sacred place in Rome after the Temple of Vesta and that of Jupiter. Home to the state treasury, the temple contained a statue of Saturn that was filled with oil and wrapped in woolen bandages. During the Saturnalia, the festivities that were held from 17 to 23 December, the bandages were removed, a public banquet was held, gambling was allowed; according to tradition, the festivities ended with the cry of "Io Saturnalia". During the seven days of festivities, the most famous in Rome, the social order based on masters and slaves was subverted and the masters served their slaves at mealtimes. In this place there was an ancient altar, to be connected, according to tradition, to the mythical foundation of the city on the Capitol by Saturn. In fact, the legend confirms the presence of a village on the hill since the protohistoric period and the antiquity of the Saturnian cult, already present in the "Latium Vetus" during the golden age (Cfr. Saturnian city).

Construction must have already begun in the royal period, with the inauguration in the very first years of the Republic. According to scholars, the date of the first consecration fluctuates between 501 and 498 BC: the sources report as voted (promised in vote) by King Tarquinio the Superb and dedicated by Tito Larcio (dictator on both dates). Other sources attribute it to a Lucio Furio, but it is perhaps a restoration at the beginning of the 4th century BC. following the destruction of the Gallic fire. It would therefore be the oldest temple of the republican period, second only to the temple of Jupiter Capitoline.

The dies natalis of the temple corresponded to December 17, the feast of the Saturnalia, on the occasion of which the end of the year was celebrated in wild freedom.

Ancient sources recall that the cult statue, veiled and holding a scythe, was hollow and entirely filled with oil. The legs were tied with woolen bandages, untied only on the occasion of the Saturnalia.

The temple kept the state treasury (aerarium) which the quaestors took care of, the state archives, the insignia and a scale for the official weighing of the metal. Subsequently the aerarium had to be moved to a special building nearby and the archives were also transferred to the Tabularium. The podium of the temple was used for the posting of laws and public documents.

A total renovation of the building took place starting from 42 BC. by the consul Lucio Munazio Planco, with the spoils of his triumph over the Alpine population of the Reti, or according to other sources with the spoils of war taken in Syria.

After the Sorrentine fire in 283 A.D. it had to be restored again.



The currently visible remains of the building belong both to this phase (podium) and to the restoration of the late 3rd century, to which we owe the column shafts in gray and pink granite (only those of the facade and the first two of the sides remain) and the capitals four-sided ionics.

The entablature is made up of reused elements: the frieze-architrave shows the original decoration of the late 2nd-early 3rd century on the inner side of the pronaos, while the back was reworked to accommodate the new dedication inscription, which recalls the reconstruction after a fire: SENATUS POPULUSQUE ROMANUS INCENDIO CONSUMPTUM RESTITUIT. The frame with shelves is still that of Munazio Planco's building, reassembled. Due to the enlargement, the blocks of the entablature were integrated with smaller blocks, placed in the center of each capital.

The podium in cementitious work covered with travertine dates back to the most ancient restructuring by Munazio Planco, with a front staircase that crossed a forepart (largely collapsed) within which a room was open. This room was accessed from a door to the east, of which the threshold still remains. This is probably where the Treasury, the treasury of the Roman state, was located.

The eastern facade of the podium shows the numerous holes that draw the shape of a large rectangular panel, where various public documents were posted, widely quoted by the sources.

To the east of the Temple the Via Sacra ended, crossing with the vicus Iugarius and continuing, around the façade, as a Capitoline clivus. Just before the intersection was the disappeared arch of Tiberius (16 AD, celebrating the victories of Germanicus).



The Rostra (in Latin Rostra) were the tribunes in the Roman forum from which the magistrates held their prayers. The name derives from the prows of the enemy ships (rostrum in fact) torn by the Romans during the victorious battle of Anzio, which were placed here in 338 BC.

Republican Rostra
The most ancient Rostra (Rostra vetera), were part of the Comitium, the circular square of public political assemblies, in particular they occupied the arched tiers on the south-eastern side, with the concavity facing north.

The republican bolts remained in use until they were demolished to make room for the Forum of Caesar.

Of the republican Rostra, only a circular arched base remains, between the altar of the Lapis niger and the facade of the Curia Iulia, visible today through a trap door that opens into the travertine floor of the age of Augustus.

They adorned the republican beaks:
The statues of the three Sibyls;
The statue of Camillo;
The statues of ambassadors who died during their missions, especially those who died in Fidene by Queen Teuta.

Imperial Rostra
Cesare had the Rostra rebuilt in the center of the short side of the rectangular square of the Forum, behind the new Curia Iulia and the Campidoglio hill. In the first years of the second triumvirate, the heads and hands of the citizens on the ban list were attacked here, including the renowned orator Cicero (43 BC).

They were inaugurated in 29 BC. From him they also took the name of Rostra Iulia. Empty of their political function, they were gradually covered with statues and celebratory monuments, becoming a purely symbolic place.

Of the Rostri there remain the remains of the square façade placed almost adjacent to the arch of Septimius Severus. They measured about 23.80 meters (80 Roman feet) and the part made up of small cemented stones is the result of modern restorations. You can still see the large pin holes that held the naval "bolts". The rear part, which faces the Capitol, is composed of a semicircular staircase, which recalled the original shape of the Republican Rostrums. The actual platform of the oratories, probably wooden, was supported by some brick pillars still visible (perhaps originally in travertine). The part towards the Arch is still richly covered with marble (in the qualities of portasanta and "African" - the latter name being misleading as it is a stone originating from Asia Minor), in correspondence with where there was a triangular room that contained, in bottom, another ladder to the upper platform. To the north there is also a brick extension, which an inscription attributes to the prefect Ulpius Giunio Valentino, who lived around 470 AD: perhaps this extension was carried out following the victory over the Vandals, which is why it is also called the Rostra Vandalica.

In a relief of the arch of Constantine he shows five columns behind the Rostra. Two bases of this group were found with inscriptions in the Renaissance, which were later lost: one commemorated the twentieth anniversary of the Augusti (Augustorum vicennalia feliciter), the other the twentieth anniversary of the emperors (Vicennalia Imperatorum); the latter base was perhaps the central one and held a statue of Jupiter, while the others held statues of the emperors. A third base is the only one that has come down to us, the base of the Decennalia.

More beaks
In the Forum there were three stands of Rostri: the most important was that of the imperial Rostra, then there were those placed on the podium of the temple of Divo Giulio (where Augustus had placed the beaks of the enemy ships beaten in the battle of Actium) and those of the temple of the Dioscuri . Together they made up the so-called Rostra tria.